4 user 4 critic

A Reasonable Man (1999)

With issues of his own, an ex-army officer-turned-lawyer defends an impoverished young cowherd of killing a baby.



7 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »


Add Image Add an image

Do you have any images for this title?

Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Tsotsi (2005)
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Six days in the violent life of a young Johannesburg gang leader.

Director: Gavin Hood
Stars: Presley Chweneyagae, Mothusi Magano, Israel Makoe
Rendition (2007)
Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

After a terrorist bombing kills an American envoy in a foreign country, an investigation leads to an Egyptian who has been living in the United States for years and who is married to an ... See full summary »

Director: Gavin Hood
Stars: Reese Witherspoon, Jake Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard
Short | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

An elderly man owns a small, isolated general store, somewhere in rural South Africa. After suffering a series of burglaries, which culminate in the murder of a night-watchman, the ... See full summary »

Director: Gavin Hood
Stars: Winston Ntshona, Vusi Kunene, Jerry Mofokeng
Drama | Thriller | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Col. Katherine Powell, a military officer in command of an operation to capture terrorists in Kenya, sees her mission escalate when a girl enters the kill zone triggering an international dispute over the implications of modern warfare.

Director: Gavin Hood
Stars: Helen Mirren, Aaron Paul, Alan Rickman
Ender's Game (2013)
Action | Fantasy | Sci-Fi
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

Young Ender Wiggin is recruited by the International Military to lead the fight against the Formics, a genocidal alien race which nearly annihilated the human race in a previous invasion.

Director: Gavin Hood
Stars: Harrison Ford, Asa Butterfield, Hailee Steinfeld
Adventure | Drama

A team of 20 men and more than 200 sled dogs race against time and harsh weather conditions to combat an epidemic of diphtheria afflicting a Gold Rush town deep in Alaska.

Director: Gavin Hood


Cast overview, first billed only:
... Sean Raine
... Judge Wendon
... Jennifer Raine
Vusi Kunene ... Prosecutor Linde
... Headman
Loyiso Gxwala ... Sipho Mbombela
Nandi Nyembe ... Sangoma Rachel Ndlovu
Ian Roberts ... Chris Van Rooyen
Graham Hopkins ... Professor MacKenzie
Rapulana Seiphemo ... Joe Zuma
Keketso Semoko ... Mary Majola
Thembi Nyandeni ... Miriam Mbombela
Duma Mnembe ... Village Sangoma
Amanda Dakada ... Mary's Sick Daughter
Ayanda Ncube ... Thandi Mbombela


A Reasonable Man tells the story of a city lawyer who comes across the case of a herdboy from remote, rural Zululand, who has killed a one year old baby in the mistaken belief that he was killing an evil spirit, known throughout Southern Africa as the "Tikoloshe". Dark Secrets which lie buried deep within the lawyer connect him to the boy. He takes the case and enters a world of African witchcraft and mysticism to discover the truth about the killing - and himself. Written by Gavin Hood <gavinhood@compuserve.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Where do you draw the line?


See all certifications »





Release Date:

13 August 1999 (South Africa)  »

Also Known As:

En resonabel man  »


Box Office


$61,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

A review of a great South African film
12 November 1999 | by See all my reviews

A Reasonable Man

Reviewed by Larry Schlesinger (for I-Net Bridge)

There has been a tendency in the past to judge locally made films on a different to scale to those that are made in Hollywood, or abroad. I must admit that I almost fell into the same trap when I began thinking about this exceptional film.

Gavin Hood who produced, directed, and wrote the screenplay for " A Reasonable Man", plays the lead character, Sean Raine. Raine is a corporate lawyer who through a series of events, while river rafting with his wife on a friend's farm, comes to the aid of a herdboy, Sipho Mtombelo. Sipho is accused of murdering a 1-year-old baby for the purpose of making African Muti, a powerful medicine for warding of evil spirits. Sipho, deeply disturbed by the ordeal, and locked up in a dank Johannesburg jail, claims that he believes he was killing the Tokoloshe, an evil African spirit, much feared by the local tribesman.

Sean has met the herdboy earlier in the day. He and his wife are nearly trampled by Sipho's herd of cattle, while sleeping on the riverbank. Sean takes on his case, not believing that this gentle boy could be guilty of such a heinous and viscous crime, even though he is caught with a bloodstained hatchet in his hand.

Raine and the viewer descend into the world of witchcraft and African mysticism, as he undergoes an exorcism of his own soul, while trying to save Sipho. It soon becomes clear that Raine has personal reasons for taking on the case, his own demons still plague him from his days as a bush shoulder in the Angolan War. This inter-weaving of plots and character give the film it's rich texture and depth, and also serves to raise it up above the purely "courtroom drama", which it never becomes.

Raine visits a witchdoctor, at dawn, driving his polished green landrover through the dusty township. He plays the part of the civilized and educated white man, believing that he can understand African beliefs, merely by asking questions. He soon finds out that he cannot understand Sipho's beliefs, unless he incorporates them into his psyche. The witchdoctor says to Sean: " You are a white man in African and you are cursed. There is a snake inside of you". What follows is a gruesome and disturbing exorcism as Raine's must first cleanse himself of his own evil spirits and demons The point being made here is obvious. African beliefs cannot be tossed aside because they are old. The relentless modernization of society cannot bury the deep African roots that have guided the tribes of African since the dawn of time. A white man must choose between being an African or remaining an outsider forever

Nigel Hawthorne represents this colonial past as he gives a superb performance as the crusty judge. He has an understanding of African witchcraft, but it is a narrow and limited view and he struggles to find a place for it in his civil and educated set of values. However he does raise some serious and telling points of debate. The judges argument is that a man cannot be merely excused of his actions because he holds certain beliefs which result in the death of an innocent child, whether the child is believed to be a Tokoloshe or not. A man may believe as he wishes, and act according to his beliefs, but he shall be held accountable for these actions by the legal requirements of a modern Judeo-Christian society. Otherwise, the judge says, the leaders of the apartheid government could be excused of their actions because they were based on a set of firmly held beliefs, no matter how sick they may seem to society. This is an excellently argument, and one which Sean Raine has failed to consider in his defense plea.

On the other hand, it is unfair to judge traditional beliefs by western standards. In one of the few humorous episodes, the witchdoctor is put on the stand, as is asked about her experience in her profession. Eventually she gets annoyed by the prosecuting attorney (superbly played by Vusi Kunene) who wants to know what her education is, and says: " I am not a professor of witchcraft". She has been educated, but not in a school. An elder sangoma has trained her in the practice of healing by using the spirits of the ancestors, and the point is made that not all knowledge is to be found in school and libraries. This testimony of the witchdoctor contrasts with that of the university professor who has studied African witchcraft, not to understand it, but to document its savagery. This contrast is just one of the many ways that Hood as director sets up the multi-cultural battleground upon which the story unfolds.

A Reasonable man is well made, with superb performances by a largely local cast of actors, including some of South Africa's finest - Michael Richards, Graham Hopkins, and Ken Gambu, to mention a few.

By any set of standards, it is a deeply moving and disturbing film that taps into the marrow of South Africa's rainbow nation, and is a sure of sign of the great stories that our local filmmakers have to tell.

17 of 20 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 4 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Stream Trending Movies With Prime Video

Enjoy a night in with these popular movies available to stream now with Prime Video.

Start your free trial